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Former Apple ad man Ken Segall talks Steve Jobs, simplicity in Time interview

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
In an interview with Time on Tuesday, Ken Segall, a former creative director of Apple ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day who worked with the late Steve Jobs at Apple and NeXT, discussed a wide range of topics including his time collaborating on the Cupertino tech giant's ad campaigns.

The interview, a special presentation at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, was conducted by Time editor-at-large Harry McCracken, with much of the time focused on Segall's work at both Apple and NeXT as well as his book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success.

Segall is in a unique position to offer insight into the inner workings of Apple's advertising process after being involved in the company's ad campaigns for 12 years. Among his team's accomplishments are the naming of the "iMac" and the "Think Different" campaign, the latter kickstarting Apple's initial rise following the return of cofounder Steve Jobs. Segall has done subsequent work for large tech companies Dell and IBM.

During the interview, a wide array of topics were covered, including personal interactions with Jobs and an inside look at the "To the crazy ones" spot. Segall tells an entertaining story about directing Phyllis Diller for the ad, though Apple ultimately went with Richard Dreyfus' take.

Apple's design ethos was also brought up, and naturally the discussion turned to Jobs, who was a huge proponent of simplicity.



Segall was recently critical of Apple's newest "Genius" ad blitz launched during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games, saying on his blog, "These ads are causing a widespread gagging response, and deservedly so." He added that the three-spot series looks like something produced by Best Buy or Dell, not the classically simple style of past Apple ads.

"There's no excuse for a campaign like that," Segall said. "Apple's momentum is fueled by the enthusiasm of its core customers. The last thing it wants is to win new customers at the cost of looking ridiculous to its enthusiastic supporters."

It was announced Tuesday that Apple would no longer run the "Genius" spots during the remainder of Olympic coverage.
post #2 of 13

At least apple listened that these ad sucked.

post #3 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Segall was recently critical of Apple's newest "Genius" ad blitz launched during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games, saying on his blog, "These ads are causing a widespread gagging response, and deservedly so." He added that the three-spot series looks like something produced by Best Buy or Dell, not the classically simple style of past Apple ads.
"There's no excuse for a campaign like that," Segall said. "Apple's momentum is fueled by the enthusiasm of its core customers. The last thing it wants is to win new customers at the cost of looking ridiculous to its enthusiastic supporters."

 

Hopefully Cupertino is listening.

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   Apple develops an improved programming language.  Google copied Java.  Everything you need to know, right there.

 

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post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

In an interview with Time on Tuesday, Ken Segall, a former creative director of Apple ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day ...
 

 

I know the whole article as well as Apple Insider's coverage of it is intended to lionise this guy and make his criticisms seem "of the moment" and of great import, but he comes across entirely the opposite way to me.  Some of the things he frames as sort of self-evident seem to me more like knee-jerk "old thinking" that he hasn't analysed very deeply at all.  Especially the criticism of the genius campaign.  I think he confuses "don't like" with "isn't good."  

 

By his criteria for instance, the whole "I'm a Mac" series would be in the same boat as these new genius ads.  They aren't "simple" in the way he describes at all, yet they are some of the most powerful ads in recent memory.  He says "The last thing it wants is to win new customers at the cost of looking ridiculous to its enthusiastic supporters," but if you think about it for a second, it's not really clear that this is true at all.  The newer customers are by far the bigger group and perhaps even the more important group to hang on to at the moment, and what really *is* self-evident is that the true believers will hang on no matter what Apple does and no matter which ads they run.  

 

As a long time Apple user and supporter I understand and appreciate the sentiment, but I don't think much of what he says is particularly logical or knowledgeable at all.  I think Apple could certainly execute better ads than the genius series, but the actual content and intent of them seems smart and effective to me.  

post #5 of 13

This interview is just so darn uncomfortable!

post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by See Flat View Post

This interview is just so darn uncomfortable!


I second that.. I ended up listening to it instead of watching it.

post #7 of 13
Quote:
He added that the three-spot series looks like something produced by Best Buy or Dell, not the classically simple style of past Apple ads.

 

!


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All my life, I always wanted to be somebody. Now I see that I should have been more specific.
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post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by See Flat View Post

This interview is just so darn uncomfortable!

Agreed! This guy is borderline incoherent. I watched the whole thing and he is very difficult to follow! Ugh!

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

I know the whole article as well as Apple Insider's coverage of it is intended to lionise this guy and make his criticisms seem "of the moment" and of great import, but he comes across entirely the opposite way to me.  Some of the things he frames as sort of self-evident seem to me more like knee-jerk "old thinking" that he hasn't analysed very deeply at all.  Especially the criticism of the genius campaign.  I think he confuses "don't like" with "isn't good."  

 

By his criteria for instance, the whole "I'm a Mac" series would be in the same boat as these new genius ads.  They aren't "simple" in the way he describes at all, yet they are some of the most powerful ads in recent memory.  He says "The last thing it wants is to win new customers at the cost of looking ridiculous to its enthusiastic supporters," but if you think about it for a second, it's not really clear that this is true at all.  The newer customers are by far the bigger group and perhaps even the more important group to hang on to at the moment, and what really *is* self-evident is that the true believers will hang on no matter what Apple does and no matter which ads they run.  

 

As a long time Apple user and supporter I understand and appreciate the sentiment, but I don't think much of what he says is particularly logical or knowledgeable at all.  I think Apple could certainly execute better ads than the genius series, but the actual content and intent of them seems smart and effective to me.  

I agree with you totally, this guy is riding on past glories and the past 3 minute of fame.

 

So what has he been doing that is so outstanding today.

 

When SJ was around they seldom criticise the stuffs from Apple except the fanatics of the dark side and now he is gone everyone becomes a mini Steve Jobs criticising the hell out of Apple.

 

Maybe once a person own a Mac he instantaneously develop excellent taste in everything design including advertising.

post #10 of 13

SJ reminds me of some early 20th century 'consciousness explorers', like Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. They had a strong belief that raising one's consciousness necessitated constant conscious effort. There was a graph of time vs consciousness, and without constant effort the line simply fell back, but with constant effort the line took on an upward trajectory. You could say that SJ led more with his heart than his head. That's not to say that the head is not important, but the head is where doubts take hold and the heart is where those doubts are vanquished by experience. Left to it's own ways, the head will bring mediocrity, since the head is like having your own personal committee and we all know that leads.

 

One of SJ's more powerful comments 'the brand bank' is the one that is in most danger going forward. It's one thing to have that comment ringing in your ears and another to fully employ that insight into everything you touch.

 

Finally, Apple is a company that, under SJ's reign, was clearly a company run in a very different way to other big companies. Whether that special ethos is maintained in the future is what I would fear.

 

I am not 100% certain that there is anyone at the top at Apple now who has that quality. I'm sure I'll be shot down for this comment.

post #11 of 13
I see some book selling going on.
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee 
He says "The last thing it wants is to win new customers at the cost of looking ridiculous to its enthusiastic supporters," but if you think about it for a second, it's not really clear that this is true at all.  The newer customers are by far the bigger group and perhaps even the more important group to hang on to at the moment, and what really *is* self-evident is that the true believers will hang on no matter what Apple does and no matter which ads they run.

You'll notice though that the genius ads don't explicitly show any products as the focal point of the ad so a lot of potential new customers won't even know what they are talking about. They also suggest any time you need a photo card done, you can clog up the Genius Bar with a support request, which I highly doubt is actually the case. They also suggest that their software still isn't simple enough to use, which is not a good thing.

The Get a Mac ads at least gave new customers a point of reference, which is the frustration they might feel with their current PC and what a Mac can offer. Plus they were actually funny, which is really the most important thing if you set out to make a funny ad.

There's too much back-tracking happening at Apple: EPEAT, Mac Pro 'new' label, ads, FCP 7 licenses. It's like they are making decisions and letting the public determine if they are the right choice instead of making the right choice internally. They could have even run these decisions by us first and they could have figured out the right thing to do.
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamC View Post

I agree with you totally, this guy is riding on past glories and the past 3 minute of fame.

 

So what has he been doing that is so outstanding today.

 

When SJ was around they seldom criticise the stuffs from Apple except the fanatics of the dark side and now he is gone everyone becomes a mini Steve Jobs criticising the hell out of Apple.

 

Maybe once a person own a Mac he instantaneously develop excellent taste in everything design including advertising.

If you read Segal's blog, you'll find that you are mistaken. He's normally one of Apple's biggest supporters. But since he did create many Apple ads in the past, he certainly has the right to criticize when appropriate. Given the wretched quality of the new ads, it's definitely appropriate.

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